Networking for the application in a cloud-centric world

7 April 2020 | 31001 Shares


Leaders of IT functions each day wrestle with several factors, just one of which could easily be the subject of an entire article – diminishing budget and increased demand in terms of end-user experience delivered via an infrastructure that’s incredibly complicated.

Current environments can include any combination of data centers (on-premises, hosted, co-located), essential legacy applications on bare metal, public cloud services from multiple vendors, and edge installations. And all of this provisioned under hybrid topologies and multiple management tools.

External pressures are also ratcheting up on IT decision-makers. There’s the small matter of cybersecurity and legal complications regarding processing and storing data. Despite every vendor out there offering some elixir-like solution, the environment in which we all work is a brownfield site: there’s no ideal world scenario in which a solution can be deployed after a nuke-and-rebuild shake-up of existing investments.

Speaking of ideal worlds, how else might the IT Department achieve those better customer experiences, the required micro- and long-term agility and scalability, security, and reliability? Perhaps by employing thousands more seasoned IT professionals who all get up to speed with the enterprise’s stack in hours, not days? Or maybe a bending of the laws of physics with which the working day doubles in length without causing stress and fatigue in all employees?

This is, unfortunately, the real world, so delivering on expectations on all fronts, with less cash to do so, is the situation in which every IT executive finds themselves. For many, the situation is challenging but also stimulating and exciting. The rewards are there when the business thrives, and some of that success is, of course, reflected in the careers of the professionals behind it. The question is how to get to that point in a challenging scenario that is the modern enterprise’s IT environment.


From goals, back to the Full Stack
It’s an essential exercise to define what the desired outcomes are in terms of the technology and business outcomes. The two are inseparable in today’s commercial environment, where IT underpins every single aspect of the organization. For the business, what matters is how applications function, as it’s from these that everything emanates: The agility (or mobility) of apps & services to be fast under any load, to be safe, to be able to respond autonomously without (slow) human intervention behind the scenes, and to let the application’s keepers and maintainers see what’s going on. These issues can be consolidated under the following core requirements: security; operational efficiency; agility; and customer experience.

Aside from the needs of the application, many companies have made a commitment already to a public cloud provider to service an immediate capacity / burst requirement, so a simplified common view is essential. There is further pressure on IT teams from business leaders to accelerate Cloud adoption and migration initiatives.

Hitting these five requirements (security, operational efficiency, agility, cloud, and customer experience) needs a fully integrated IT stack. For that integration to take place, the infrastructure supporting the application has to be application centric. That means wherever the application’s demands lead, the infrastructure enabling the application needs to alter quickly, safely, and transparently. It’s this scenario that Cisco is offering businesses the empowering technologies they need to achieve this; and Cisco calls it ACI Anywhere.

Why Cisco?
All along the journey the internet has traveled since its earliest inception, Cisco has been the constant benchmark against which other companies are measured. As the de facto standard from backbone hardware to abstracted services, Cisco is the supplier with which every piece of hardware and software on the planet communicates or uses, somewhere in its operations, from the network’s base protocols to fully-converged infrastructures.

Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is Cisco’s unique approach to software-defined networking (SDN) and was engineered from the ground up to enable businesses to manage the complexity and difficulties in today’s IT environments efficiently.

In short, ACI put’s the business first and gives companies the ability to run any application, on any cloud, on any platform, anywhere.

Brownfield realities
Because Cisco is so involved in the way the modern internet has evolved, it’s little wonder it is the only vendor with the capabilities to unify the most complex topologies in enterprise IT. Whether your applications are running on-premise, in clusters in public clouds of any flavor, in private data centers, or multiple edge installations, ACI creates a new, agnostic platform capable of responding to business needs, irrespective of the underlying technological concerns.

The different elements of the Cisco product range allow resource allocation to take place intelligently, regardless of the location of the application, or where, or on what it’s running on. It ensures legacy and new apps run safely with the transparency demanded by IT and allows network teams to scale infrastructure fast and securely.

If your business wants to pursue a rapid transition to a cloud-first stance, that’s achievable quickly at any scale: Cisco ACI works across AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, et al. If the existing data centers need to deploy combined resources, or segment differently, ACI can enable that, too.

“Traditional” or micro-services as application methods? On-demand bursts to clouds of any type? Migrating workloads to find the most cost-effective solution? Ensuring required bandwidth & throughput to new services, in seconds? These are all possible, simply and securely.

In fact, because of the abstraction and agnosticism on which the ACI Anywhere methodology is based, “segmentation” takes on new meaning: IT can segment or visualize the full stack according to business units (HR, F&A), application components (web, database), or applications’ zones (development, testing, production). Clearly, too, there’s segmentation with regards to security, so any issues can be seen and addressed before affecting the enterprise’s on-going progress.

The existing IT investments in any enterprise are connected, data is correlated and analyzed, and the entirety of the technology at play is available to view and control via the Application Policy Controller and Cisco Intersight. The latter is Cisco’s cloud-based infrastructure management platform.

As the point of control, oversight, and monitoring, Intersight includes a mobile app that means your infrastructure can now be managed from a mobile device – an invaluable capability in situations where IT teams cannot access business premises easily.

ACI is also complemented by security tools (like Tetration), load optimization solutions (CWOM), experience monitoring (for instance, AppDynamics data) – all of which is fully-automatable, done safely and securely, and in a way that allows the business to take decisions without IT having to dig in its heels or apply the brakes due to technical concerns.

ACI Anywhere puts organizations on the right footing to move into the next stage of their journey. One that’s ready for the agile, leaner and more responsive business of the future.

It’s worth noting here that with the realities of an existing infrastructure comes the need to continue the realization of return on investment in existing products. The ACI Anywhere platform is massively scaleable and connectable. In all areas of the IT stack, industry-standard tools, from Citrix to Splunk, F5 to Hyper V, inform the ACI platform and are informed by it symbiotically.

Whatever your existing technologies, in every function, application-centric infrastructure will assimilate and use: analytics platforms, deployment automation (Chef, Puppet), ADC, workload management (Open Stack, Docker), ITSM (ServiceDesk) and security. Enterprise-grade and industry-standard tools are an integral part of the overall application-centric offering.

Further reading and discovery
A relatively short article such as this cannot cover the extent of ACI Anywhere possibilities. We’ve only managed to touch on some of the outcomes the IT function can expect. The consistent framework ACI provides is a driver of business empowerment, one that’s inclusive of every method of using and deploying IT in the enterprise today.

Available as any number of modular offerings, with different staging and support options, from virtualized ACI for the edge, to a fully converged ACI Anywhere overlay for public clouds, ACI Anywhere addresses the core pain-points enterprise technology leaders see today. Crucially, it provides the foundation for long-term evolution in the digital economy.

Find out more today to begin the journey with Cisco.